Karsten Danzmann receives the 2017 Körber European Science Prize

Max Planck director and professor at Leibniz Universität Hannover honoured for the development of key technologies for gravitational-wave detection

This year's Körber European Science Prize, endowed with 750,000 euros, goes to Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI). The Körber foundation honours Danzmann’s central role in the development of technologies which were crucial to the first direct detection of gravitational waves in September 2015 by the US Advanced LIGO detectors.  The prize will be presented on September 7, 2017 in Hamburg. 

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Winner of the Körber Prize 2017: Karsten Danzmann, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hanover.

Winner of the Körber Prize 2017: Karsten Danzmann, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hanover.

The Körber Foundation announced the award for Danzmann today in a press release. The Körber European Science Prize 2017 will be presented on 7 September 2017 in the large festival hall of Hamburg City Hall.

“Karsten Danzmann opened a new door for the understanding of the Universe. It was the unanimous verdict of the Körber Prize committees that the key technologies developed by him made the first direct detection of gravitational waves possible in the first place. They combine not only unexpected possibilities for fundamental astrophysical research, but also direct applications in, for example, geodesy satellites and data communication,” says Matthias Mayer, head of the science department of the Körber Foundation.  

As part of the GEO Collaboration, a team of Max Planck, Leibniz Universität Hannover and UK researchers, Danzmann has been operating the GEO600 gravitational-wave detector south of Hannover, Germany, since the mid 1990s. GEO600 is a development center for novel and advanced technologies in the international gravitational-wave research community.

Many key technologies that enable the unprecedented sensitivity of LIGO and its discoveries have been developed and tested by GEO600. AEI researchers together with the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. also developed, built, and installed the high-power laser systems at the heart of the LIGO instruments. Crucial improvements in the optical measurement principle such as power and signal recycling where first demonstrated in GEO600 as a large gravitational-wave detector.

GEO600 is the only gravitational-wave detector worldwide using “squeezed light” to mitigate fundamental quantum noise effects and improve its sensitivity at high frequencies. In the future all ground-based gravitational-wave detectors will use squeezed-light sources similar to that at GEO600 to further improve their sensitivity.

“I am very happy about this great honour and recognition of my accomplishments,” says Danzmann. “The award money will be invested into further development of gravitational-wave detectors and will therefore benefit the global research community.” With the Körber Prize award money Danzmann will further refine measurement technologies for the third generation of gravitational-wave detectors.  This will employ quantum mechanically entangled photons which will allow even better control of the quantum noise.

Since the early 1990s Danzmann also plays a leading research role in a planned gravitational-wave detector called LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), which will be launched as a mission of the European Space Agency ESA in 2034. Three satellites will span an equilateral triangle of laser arms, each 2.5 million kilometers long, and will detect low-frequency gravitational waves entirely inaccessible on Earth. Together with an international team, Danzmann showed in 2016 that the technology required for LISA works.

Karsten Danzmann, born in 1955, studied physics at the University of Hanover, where he also obtained his doctorate in 1980. Further stages of his career included research stays at Stanford University and the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt Berlin. From 1990 to 1993, he was project manager in the field of gravitational waves at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching. Since 1993, he has held a professorship at the University of Hanover. In 2002, was appointed as director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hanover.

Karsten Danzmann has been presented with the Fritz Behrens Foundation Science Prize 2016 and the Lower Saxony Science Award 2016. Together with Bruce Allen, director at the AEI Hannover and Alessandra Buonanno, director at the AEI Potsdam-Golm, he received the Lower Saxony State Prize 2016. As part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration he was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the Gruber Cosmology Prize.

KNI / HOR

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